Some NSA defenders would have us believe it’s radical and unreasonable to help Americans to communicate in secret with friends and family.

By CONOR FRIEDERSDORF
NOV 6 2013
The Atlantic

After noting Ladar Levison’s new effort to build an NSA-proof email service that protects users from the prying eyes of the surveillance state, I wasn’t surprised to see a reader object. Its creators “might want to ask the public if they really want this service, a service which will undoubtedly make it much easier for radical anti-US elements anywhere in the world to much more easily plan and wreak their proverbial havoc against the American government,” she wrote. “I expect the rabid Tea Partiers will be dumping lots of dough into Kickstarter to help Levison pump up those who might be anxious to repeat 9/11, but this time with 4 planes aimed at the White House in order to rid them of their, the Teas, arch enemy. I for one do NOT want such a service, which will make it impossible for the government to do what it is supposed to do: protect the U.S. against all types of attacks.”

Remember when George W. Bush was president and dissenters on the left were the ones accused of empowering the terrorists? But my purpose isn’t to dwell on the anti-Tea Party attacks. Instead, I want to concede one point. My reader is right that if the NSA can’t hoover up and analyze every piece of email sent in the world, it may miss some conversations between terrorists intent on doing us harm. Privacy prevents authorities from seeing all sorts of things, some of them bad.

What I’d like is for this reader to apply her standard generally, not just to digital communications.

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